Sometimes I make jokes about my white lady first-world problems. I think I make them jokes because it’s easier to laugh at my own absurdity than it is to change or heal it.
Humor = Tragedy + Time, right?
We do need humor as a way to manage or process our emotions. Laughter is medicine, and it’s really good medicine when it makes us think and reflect. But, I’ve been laughing at myself a lot lately while I’ve been crying about the world.
That’s so unfair, isn’t? My pain is trite enough to laugh about while the world around me suffers deeply.
I can shares memes about learning to live and work in this new reality, and they are helpful and funny and normalize it for me, but, what else is getting normalized, still?
Yes, this is hard and my feelings are valid and my emotions are valid and my experience is both valid and real.
And it’s still an extremely privileged struggle.
I read this post from Ibram X.Kendi today, and I can’t stop thinking about the perfect line he draws between freedom to (individual freedom) and freedom from (community freedom). Read it. Make sure you scroll past each set of ads. It is not short, it keeps going. Read it, please, and then read it again.
“The slaveholder’s freedom to secede from Lincoln’s “house divided against itself”—divided between the freedom to and from. Memminger was named the Confederate secretary of the Treasury. Americans went to war. Americans are still waging this same war, now over COVID-19. There is a war between those fighting to open America back up for the sake of individual freedom, and those fighting to keep America closed for the sake of community freedom. A civil war over the very meaning, the very utility of freedom.
From the beginning of the American project, the powerful individual has been battling for his constitutional freedom to harm, and the vulnerable community has been battling for its constitutional freedom from harm. Both freedoms were inscribed into the U.S. Constitution, into the American psyche. The history of the United States, the history of Americans, is the history of reconciling the unreconcilable: individual freedom and community freedom. There is no way to reconcile the enduring psyche of the slaveholder with the enduring psyche of the enslaved.”
While I’m over here crying about having to do laundry while I entertain my three year old and get my work tasks done, racism thrives on. Stop saying it’s not an emergency. Stop saying there are other “causes” to focus on, or declaring that the news is just too depressing. Stop pretending that being an anti-racist is just a thing for passionate people who care about social justice.
Fucking give a damn fuck.
White Supremacy is still the ruling ideology, folks. Protection of white power is indoctrinated into America’s children and legalized in as systemic, rampant, violent racism. We’ve been living these truths our entire white lives, whether we’ve been able to see them or not, they exist in the real world.
No matter what’s “in our hearts” or what reality we’ve decided is true for us, no matter how many times we try to argue that you experience reverse-racism (actually impossible) and oppression of our rights (it’s clear we do not understand what this word means), this is a white supremacist nation run by white supremacists and a refusal to do the work makes us white supremacists too.
I know I was asleep. Not just from this, from many things, but this slumber costs lives and I am still waking up. It is not an instant, or final, process. For the last several years I’ve been unpacking, and learning, and growing. I’ve been changing and making difficult decisions, and setting hard boundaries and getting really uncomfortable. And it’s a lot of work and I make lots of mistakes and I get tired and check out and go numb.
But there’s no room for me to get tired. There’s no time for me to have other things to save. This needs to be my number one, most important, filters into everything crisis focus.
It needs to be yours too.
Take care of yourself, honor and acknowledge your feelings and experience, but remember that we are working towards freedom from, not to. This is so much bigger than you.
Do you not see how a racially just society paves the way for a socially just one? An economically just one? An environmentally just one?
The ills of the world rest on the backs of the oppressed, and we (white people) placed them there.
Undo oppression, solve, everything.
Maybe this is too simple, too unsophisticated. Maybe I missed something big. Maybe lots of things. I’ve come a long way from where I was but I am nowhere near the end.
This is where I am right now in my journey, and nothing is worth learning if it’s not shared, so I’m sharing it.